Aramco IPO Valuation 'a Little Lofty,' Tortoise's Thummel Says


The aim is to attract foreign investment to rapidly create jobs for millions of young Saudis entering the workforce as he prepares to inherit the throne. At the 42nd AGM of Reliance, it was made clear that Aramco would buy 20 percent of the oil-to-chemical business of Reliance Industries.

Funds from the IPO "should be invested, in domestic projects, with a large local content, while avoiding white elephants", according to Ziad Daoud, chief Middle East economist at Bloomberg Economics.

Instead, potential buyers thought his $2 trillion valuation was too high.

First touted in 2016, the company's partial privatization was supposed to usher in a new era of economic liberalization in Saudi Arabia. Despite Houthi militants claiming responsibility for the sabotage, Riyadh and Washington blame Tehran. Iran has denied the allegations.

The Saudi government also stipulates oil production levels, which directly impacts Aramco's output. Last week OPEC agreed to cut production by 50,000 barrels per day in the first quarter of 2020, which should push up prices.

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This year's curb on expenditures marks a departure from the march toward greater spending, but the government says its cash assistance program, started last year for lower-income Saudi families, will continue. At that price, the company would be worth $1.7 trillion.

Abdulaziz said Saudi Aramco's value couldn't be evaluated by "a tweak here or a tweak there" in the oil supply.

Aramco is a notoriously secretive company, but it was required to lift the lid on its operations in the IPO prospectus, which listed its risks and strengths.

Energy minister Prince Bin Salman said on Friday he believes Aramco will reach a $2tn valuation once listed. Moreover, the huge stock exchange would aid in meeting the Vision 2030 plan of Mohammed bin Salman. Now there are no immediate plans to list on an global stock exchange. "We will achieve a balanced budget in the midterm", Jadaan said.

Aramco said the sale of 1.5 per cent of the firm, the bedrock of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious strategy to overhaul the oil-reliant economy, was oversubscribed almost 4.7 times. Aramco offered just 1.5% of its shares and opted for a local listing, relying nearly entirely on Saudi and regional investors.

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Non-Saudi Arabian investors were allocated 23 percent of the institutional portion of Saudi Aramco's initial public offering (IPO), Al-Khatib added.

It helps that Aramco has promised to pay an annual dividend of $75 billion through 2024.

Saudi citizens were offered 0.5% of the company or about a third of the offering, an unprecedented retail offering compared with previous Saudi IPOs.

To boost demand, authorities allowed lenders to provide credit for stock purchases at a proportion that was twice the usual for IPOs.

A majority of Aramco shareholders now are reported to be Saudis.

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